“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
~ C.S. Lewis
Early on in my life, I recognized two important truths about myself:
- I care much less about accomplishments than others tell me I should.
- I care much more about my friends than others have advised me to.
I’ve been blessed thus far in life, and have accomplished enough to have both of my parents feel proud. Yet the ecstasy of getting into a good university, earning the best scholarship I could, getting a great job out of school, moving out on my own … all of those “wins”, those accomplishments that I was led to believe were the true measures of success, they’ve all faded away in importance to me over the months and years.
Never do I think back to the day I was accepted to the “Harvard of Canada”. Nor do I think about getting my first job interview, the offer, the scholarship, the accolades. Truthfully they aren’t important to me looking back on the years I’ve lived.
What I do look back on are the friendships I’ve nurtured, the love I’ve felt from peers who have wanted the best for me, the hours and minutes I spent with my very best friends, laughing, crying, growing, living.
My friends have carried me through dark times, supported me when I’ve taken risks, made me laugh until my stomach cramped and tears of joy flowed, and helped me figure out what I believe is mainly “the point” of life.
All of this would have you think that I live my life nurturing my existing friendships and constantly searching for new ones, right?
Actually, the opposite is true. I’ve found that opening myself up to life, living without expectation, and being present in life is the surest path to bountiful, rewarding friendship. You find the treasures when you seek them the least.
And this is why I could not help but bawl my eyes out last week when I said goodbye to over 50 newfound, entirely unexpected, and downright incredible friends. At that moment, a cut on my wrist would have me bleeding blue.
Ascending the IBM Summit
The past 7 months I’ve received some of the best sales training possible for an undergrad fresh out of school: IBM’s Summit program, where I enrolled in IBM’s world-renowned Global Sales School. “GSS” entailed:
~ 17 simulated Executive-level sales calls with IBMers of 30+ yrs experience.
~ Education spanning Cloud, Security, Infrastructure, Development, & more.
~ Training in Toronto, Raleigh, New York City, and Houston
~ Full deal ownership, from cold call, to brainstorm, to signature, to delivery.
I am incredibly satisfied with my decision to participate in this program as the first step in my career, am thankful for the lessons learned, and am proud of the respect I’ve earned from my mentors and classmates.
But like all peak experiences, I’ll come to remember one thing the most:
The people… my friends.
Feeling Understood at Scale
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Honestly, we’re all crazy. Some days we show it, others we conceal it. Whether you like to run fast, scream loud, kiss soft, think hard, dance wild, code late, talk long, sleep short, dream big, we all have infinite passion and energy.
Yet it can be terrifying to let the fullest extent of our passions loose. It takes a special type of friend in order for us to feel comfortable expressing ourselves, our truest selves, our craziest selves.
It is a massive risk to express our authentic selves… which is why feeling understood is such an incredible gift.
Many of my colleagues (rather, my friends) who underwent IBM’s Sales School with me have become these types of friends.
Whether I’m crushing impromptu client pitches with Alec, laughing hysterically with Erin and Jensen, talking about life with Emily, learning the Texas ways with Cam, Steve, and Knox, trading career strategies with Julian, discussing spirituality with Jordan, or chanting “VICTORY” alongside my program manager Tony, I’ve come to meet incredible individuals who have done nothing but raise my game and made me a better version of myself.
In each of their unique ways, these friends of mine, and many friends unmentioned, have opened up to me and shared their unique gifts … we have been both vulnerable and authentic. What more could a friend ask for?
“Friendship, for Aristotle, seems to be the cornerstone of human society and flourishing, an integral part of happiness, and bound up inextricably with the notion of virtue.” ~ Andrew Sullivan
Both Sullivan and Seneca are right. Feeling understood by one of your truest friends is beautiful. You feel valued, important, and cherished. You are able to share your greatest gifts with the world because you feel both safe and supported.
The times I have spent with these friends of mine has made me feel a sense of collective purpose I thought I’d left behind in my days of team sports and humanitarian efforts. I felt happy, care-free, and virtuous.
I started IBM’s Summit program for myself, but I finished it for my friends.
My World is Wherever We Are
“Wherever you are it is your own friends who make your world.”
~ William James
When I accepted my offer to attend IBM’s Sales School, I didn’t even think I’d be traveling to the U.S. I thought I’d be spending my days in Toronto, watching training videos online, and having repeated check-in meetings with my local managers. Riveting.
Instead, I was able to hit Raleigh, NYC, and Houston as part of the training, and pulled off trips to Boca Raton and Dallas on my own accord.
Wherever I went, the friendship followed.
This feeling of acceptance and support is easy to forget. In many ways, the feeling of true friendship is a feeling of love. It’s the type of love many of us experienced growing up as kids with great parents, the love felt by others engrossed in competitive sports, and is the love enjoyed by those who love the company they work for and the people they work with.
Humans are tribal beings, thriving off of a sense of community, and with my GSS friends, I came to feel this in a profound way.
When you are surrounded by those you care for and with whom you share a common purpose, many of life’s trivialities fall by the wayside. I wasn’t focused on what made us different, but rather, I centered on all that we shared; every difference was simply another lesson to learn from one another.
It gave this thought from Stumbling on Happiness greater context:
“If I wanted to predict your happiness and I could only know one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know about your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about the strength of your relationship with your friends and family.”
~ Daniel Gilbert
Surrounded by 50 newfound friends, 20+ of which I’ll likely stay in touch with for the rest of my life, I felt immense happiness and unwavering purpose.
For this, I am overwhelmingly, eternally, grateful.
“Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
A piece like this is hard to wrap up. The stark reality of life is that we can’t always get exactly what we want. As much as I’d love for us all to continue coming together on a monthly basis, this simply isn’t possible.
I’ve never been sure of whether it is better to have loved or lost, or in cases like this, whether it’s better to feel elated and deflated. In past romantic relationships, I’ve gone in knowing that the end would be painful. With meeting such a wonderful group of friends so unexpectedly, I wasn’t even aware there was going to be a joyful start, let alone a heartfelt end.
I suppose the best way to sign off is to once again thank everyone for being exactly who they are, and to wish every one of us well as we continue on in our journeys. I never imagined I’d be put in this situation, but am I ever thankful that I am in it now.
“Wait, and thy heart shall speak. Wait until the necessary and everlasting overpowers you, until day and night avail themselves of your lips. The only reward of virtue, is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you to every single one of you who was, is, and shall always be,
Originally published at kyletymo.com